Op-Ed: Naveen’s Bid To Empower Women

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has been a staunch advocate of women empowerment. In one of his now famous speeches he had described empowerment of women as the real ‘double engine’ for growth, a phrase coined by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi while campaigning for his party in Odisha where he had sought people’s mandate for BJP both in Lok Sabha and the state assembly. Patnaik gave it a feminist twist and scored many brownie points.

Patnaik is right in underscoring the importance of women who constitute a huge work force which can fire the country’s growth engine. Keeping the members of fair sex shackled and confined within the four walls of their homes is not only regressive but also a great disservice to the country’s economy.

Quick to realise this Patnaik became one of the first important regional satraps of the country to unleash the power of this huge force by launching Mission Shakti which is now being hailed as a shining example of women empowerment. Supported by the state government women self help groups have been scripting success stories that would be the envy of people in any part of the country.

Patnaik believes in walking the talk. This was amply proved when he gave Lok Sabha tickets to seven women including sexagenarian, Pramila Bisoi who won from Aska, the constituency from where the chief minister had begun his own political journey. Pramila’s case is instructive.

When Patnaik announced her name as one of his party’s Lok Sabha candidates a section of intellectuals derided him. They said he was making a mockery of democracy by allotting ticket to a woman who lacked formal education which, in their opinion, would be a hindrance to her functioning as a people’s representative.

But Pramila has been doing fine as an elected representative in the wake of her spectacular victory as a Lok Sabha member. She has also taken up some important issues. Patnaik, thus, has set a good example by picking Pramila and sending her to the Lok Sabha.

Significantly, he was the first leader to propose reservation of 33 percent seats for women in parliament and in the state assemblies. He has been assiduously campaigning for this, seeking the support of leaders from around the country.

It is important to remember that his father, former chief minister, Biju Patnaik was a self professed feminist who was perhaps the first leader in the country to make reservation for women in the three-tier panchayati raj system. He had also appointed a tribal woman as one of his advisors.

There is, of course, a political side to Patnaik’s move to empower women. Women constitute a huge vote-bank and have, so far, been voting overwhelmingly in favour of his party, Biju Janata Dal. But to say that this is the only motivation for Patnaik to take steps to make the members of the fair sex self sufficient and powerful enough to contribute meaningfully to the society would be wrong.

The truth is that he has been making sincere efforts for the empowerment of a section of our society which has not only remained neglected but has also been a victim of prejudices for generations.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)